Uganda Wildlife Authority saga takes new twists and turns
UGANDA (eTN) - As officials from the Ministry of Tourism and members of the board of the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) were summoned to appear before a parliamentary committee this week, revelations
UGANDA (eTN) – As officials from the Ministry of Tourism and members of the board of the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) were summoned to appear before a parliamentary committee this week, revelations began to emerge over alleged irregularities by members of the board and an alleged patronage appointment of the chair himself by the minister.
Against past practice, the previous board was not given a second term of office, and principled and respected city lawyer, Andrew Kasirye, subsequently replaced by Dr. Muballe, who appears to be the minister’s personal physician according local media reports in the Daily Monitor. This would, if found correct, be a “double bogey,” as it could suggest deliberate patronage besides raising issues on the qualification of a medical doctor to hold the chair of the country’s national wildlife conservation and management body.
Added revelations in the local media also speak of sudden raises in sitting and other allowances for members of the board, something it now appears was firmly opposed by both Moses Mapesa when he was in office as executive director of UWA and, more important, the ministry’s permanent secretary, who is also the official accounting officer, but overruled by the minister himself. According to investigative reporters by the Monitor, the new chairman now earns nearly three times the monthly stipend compared to his predecessor and three times the amount of “sitting allowances,” which are due whenever the chairman is on duty, seemingly now a daily event.
Other allowances were reportedly doubled for ordinary board members, while the chairman is now also drawing sharply increased entertainment allowances, fuel allowances, and “air time” from UWA at a level which would suggest he has made himself “executive chairman,” a standing not provided for under the relevant laws which govern the Uganda Wildlife Authority’s operations.
To make matters worse, the present executive director, appointed by the board without allegedly following the due process of recruitment, had only joined UWA as legal counsel last year and was then promoted to chief legal counsel before being promoted three times in recent weeks by the board. This situation reportedly incensed some development partners and key donors who, at present still quietly, but depending on the findings of the parliamentary committee and their own investigations, may soon openly raise the questions of qualification, oversight, controls, transparency, and protocol.
Other damaging revelations came to light in the local media over alleged familiarization visits by board members to the national parks, which inexplicably included family members over a nearly three-week trip.
When responding to local media organizations, both the minister, as well as the chairman of UWA’s board, were reportedly defiant and in a combative mood, a situation which may be redressed when the pair has to defend themselves in the light of growing allegations and suggestions of improprieties before parliament. Meanwhile, the Daily Monitor’s investigative team has unearthed yet more background information on the turmoil at UWA, which can be sourced via http://www.monitor.co.ug/News/National/-/688334/980714/-/item/0/-/y25hwyz/-/index.html .
The man whom many still consider THE executive director of the Uganda Wildlife Authority, Mr. Moses Mapesa, sacked last week by the chairman of the board, has gone to court with other sacked senior officers to jointly obtain a court order against what they termed illegal action.
A range of allegation was made in court when submitting the documents which seek to reverse the sacking and suspensions until a substantive case can be heard. A judicial review of the board’s appointment by the minister is also being demanded, alleging the minister broke the law when appointing what amounts to “incompetent” board members failing to have the qualifications required.
Among the constraints the applicants requested the High Court to place on the board are also to refrain from negotiating and meddling into contract awards, existing tenancy agreements, interference in the financial affairs of the wildlife authority, or opening new bank accounts which they (the board) would then illegally operate under no mandate. It is alleged that should the High Court not grant an immediate injunction, irreparable harm could be done to UWA. A hearing has been scheduled for later today, Thursday, August 19, and the outcome will be reported just as soon as a decision has been made.
Should this decision go in favor of the applicants, it is not clear if the chairman and the minister would respect the decision and restore Mapesa and his sacked and suspended colleagues to their offices, but defying such a court order could result in further contempt of court charges and action which would undoubtedly bring about yet more fallout from this unsavory saga.